What to Expect During Chemotherapy Treatment

During your chemotherapy treatment at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, you may receive one drug or a combination of drugs.

We may also use other therapeutic approaches with chemo, including clinical trials.

Our goal is to make your chemo treatment as comfortable as possible.

Before Your First Chemotherapy Appointment

Before your appointment, we'll send you a packet of information.

The packet will include the paperwork we need for your first visit.

Because we need a very detailed personal and family health history, the paperwork is lengthy. We ask that you complete as much of this as you can.

Your Chemotherapy Planning Visit at UPMC Hillman

At your first visit, you'll see a doctor called a medical oncologist who:

  • Will help plan your treatment — along with you, your family, and the rest of your care team.
  • May order more tests to gather details about the stage of your cancer.
  • Will review your health history and may also do a physical exam.

You will also meet your nurse who will:

  • Be your source of information and support throughout your entire course of chemo treatment.
  • Draw your blood and give you any prescriptions you need for your care.
  • Go over details of your care plan and answer any questions you may have.
  • Let you know what to expect from your treatments including possible side effects and items you may need at home.

If you are going to have frequent treatments, you may need to have a port or catheter placed into your body. This will occur during a procedure before your chemo starts.

Your First Chemotherapy Treatment

You can bring a friend or family member to your appointments or treatments. This person can support you and help you remember information from your care team.

When you arrive at UPMC Hillman, your nurse will greet you in the waiting area and:

  • Take you to the infusion center and ask you to sign chemo treatment consent forms.
  • May need to draw blood before you start your first treatment.
  • Let you know what to expect during treatment.
  • Answer any questions you or your family may have.

You can also bring phones, tablets, books, or a blanket to make your treatment time as comfortable as possible.

How Will I Receive Chemotherapy?

You might receive chemo by:

  • Mouth
  • Injection
  • Infusion

An oncology nurse or doctor will administer your treatment.

You may receive chemotherapy in a few different settings:

  • The hospital.
  • An outpatient care center.
  • A doctor's office.
  • At home.

How Long is a Treatment Session?

The length of each chemo treatment session depends on:

  • The drugs used.
  • The specific type of treatment.
  • Whether you need any testing before treatment begins.

Your nurse can tell you how long you should expect each treatment session to last.

How Often Will I Need Chemotherapy?

The length of your treatment plan depends on what kind of cancer you have and how well it responds.

Most people have chemo in cycles, with a break between them so the body can rest.

In most cases, your doctor can give you a general idea of how long you will continue chemo. It's possible for this to change during treatment.

Contact Us About Medical Oncology and Chemotherapy

To learn more about medical oncology and chemotherapy or to make an appointment, you can:

Patient IV

All the Things to Bring to Chemo: An Essential List for Your First Appointment

Use this information as a checklist to simplify your chemotherapy appointments by knowing what to take with you.

Learn more from UPMC HealthBeat.